Jersey City, Polish officials trade barbs over massacre statue
The proposed removal of a memorial to the victims of a 1940 Polish massacre is officially an international incident, with Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop and Polish Senator Stanislaw Karczewski trading barbs about plans to find a new home for the statue.
Karczewski, speaker of Poland's senate, said Wednesday on Polish Radio that the push to move the Katyn memorial is "scandalous," while Fulop fired back with an accusation that Karczewski is a "known anti-Semite."
The insults come three days after The Jersey Journal reported that the Katyn memorial, a bronze-and-granite fixture at Exchange Place since 1991, may be moved following a renovation of the plaza where it stands. The park renovation will be undertaken by the Exchange Place business group chaired by Mack-Cali CEO Mike DeMarco, who said he'd prefer the "gruesome" statue get a new home. The city has not said whether the Katyn memorial will remain at Exchange Place.
"It is a really scandalous and very unpleasant situation for us," Karczewski said on Wednesday, adding that the monument "speaks of Polish heroism, Polish heroes and also speaks of tragic events." Poland's ambassador to the United States, Piotr Wilczek, said on Monday the city should keep the statue at Exchange Place.
Karczewski has faced criticism from Jewish and Israeli groups since the Polish Senate passed a law earlier this year banning anyone from insinuating that Poland was complicit in the Holocaust. Fulop, whose grandparents were prisoners at Auschwitz, released a statement through his spokeswoman saying the "only thing scandalous or unpleasant is Stanislaw's actions."
"The fact that a known anti-Semite, a known white nationalist, and a known Holocaust denier thinks that he will be able to influence Jersey City parks or policies is laughable," Fulop said. "This guy has zero credibility and he only has served to undermine Poland's standing in the world."
On Twitter late Thursday, Wilczek addressed Fulop: "your accusations regarding Speaker @stkarczewski are baseless and I categorically condemn them. I renew my appeal from Monday for constructive dialogue w/ the Polish-American community to #SaveKatynMonument."
DeMarco and Mack-Cali are powerful forces in Jersey City. Three of the six board members of the Exchange Place Special Improvement District, which is heading the plaza renovation project, work for Mack-Cali. The firm also spends freely in support of local politicians, everything from giving a $250,000 donation to a super PAC linked to Fulop's now-abandoned gubernatorial run to buying school supplies it gives to politicians who hand them out at back-to-school events.
The Polish artist behind the memorial, which features a bound-and-gagged soldier sta bbed in the back with a bayoneted rifle, old The Jersey Journal he is "pissed off" that DeMarco has suggested moving the statue permanently. Andrzej Pitynski, reached by phone, said the statue should remain where it is. He then called DeMarco a "schmuck."
"After 30 years some businessman with big money comes and he tries to dictate," Pitynski, who now lives in Hamilton, told The Jersey Journal. "Who this f***ing guy is? The hell with him."
A request for comment from DeMarco was not returned.
The statue commemorates the killing of over 22,000 Polish officers and other prisoners by the Soviet secret police after the Soviets invaded Poland.
In a twist, Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis Thursday evening offered to take the Katyn memorial if Jersey City doesn't want it.
"As mayor I would be proud to have it at one of our many of our wonderful parks, maybe at Rutkowski Park which is named in honor of one of Bayon ne's most prominent Polish-American leaders," Davis said in a statement from his spokesman.
Terrence T. McDonald may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @terrencemcd. Find The Jersey Journal on Facebook.Source: Google News Poland | Netizen 24 Poland